If you've been hiding away from the dodgier corners of the internet, you can probably be excused for not knowing that a Brony is an adult male fan of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (MLP henceforth), a work specifically pitched at little girls but, as the creator admits, also engineered to ensure that fathers, brothers, uncles, male cousins etc. obliged by circumstances of who-owns-the-remote-right-now to watch, can stand to do so without gritting their teeth and wishing for death.
And that's fine - I've been exposed to more than one episode myself, and I have to admit that for a cartoon whose underlying purpose (let's be honest) is to sell plastic ponies to the starry-eyed pony-loving preschool-to-pretween girl market, it's actually pretty watchable. So I can understand a father getting sucked into following along if daddy's little girl obliges him to watch it with her on a daily basis; and if there were fan conventions, I would be happy to ignore the fact that a significant proportion of the attendees were adult men in their mid twenties to early forties (say), depending on the age of their daughters (or nieces, or stepdaughters or whatever).
What I can't ignore is that there is a quite significant proportion of adult male fans who do NOT have daughters, nieces, girlfriends' daughters, granddaughters, or indeed ANY significant relationship with ANY prepubertal female fan of the show. And this perplexes me more than a little. I can accept that a few of them are going to be men who are broadly interested in all forms of animation, who stumbled across this one, and who thought it was cute and nice to chill out on when they got tired of watching other things. And that's fine too; anime in particular can be quite bloody and/or moody, and a steady diet of that is not to many people's liking. I can accept that a few of them were the (now grown up) brothers of girls who played with the original generation of MLP toys and who watched out of surprised interest and curiosity, thinking "What the hell is MLP still doing existing after all this time?" and, like the parents, got sucked in.
But not all. And then it gets really disturbing.
To cut a long story short, there is a man who pronounces himself "engaged" to Twilight Sparkle, one of the characters from the show. He gets angry when other Bronies draw erotic pictures of these ponies at play.
Yes. You did read that correctly. There are adult male fans of a pony cartoon pitched at little girls, who get a kick out of drawing these ponies fucking each other. And there is a man defending Twilight Sparkle's honour on the grounds that she is his fiancée.
I have also seen, but will not link to, a picture of a man with two plush ponies clasped between his naked thighs (he's naked to the waist and no details are spared, but he has at least been discreet enough not to show his face), and an online story (author's gender unknown) in which one of these ponies is drugged and systematically vivisected while her best friend keeps up a cheerful running commentary that would make Hannibal Lecter wince. All of which makes me think that adult investment in a children's show has been somewhat overdone to say the least; and while "Your kink is not my kink and that's OK", it might be germane to tighten our tolerance spectrum a little and to ask these people to apply their kink to characters and fandoms pitched somewhat more towards their own age group.
NOTE: I have read and re-read the quoted parts of the enraged letter from "Twilight Sparkle's fiancé" (see link) and the more I do so, the more I think he's a very clever troll or other agent provocateur and not serious about it at all. I could be wrong but I pray I'm not, because when an adult man can seriously, publicly state that he is in love with and actually engaged to a cartoon character intended for preadolescent girls, I think it points to him having serious issues with his grasp on reality and his defenders having serious issues with their priorities in life.
I would go further and state that it probably points to issues with Western society as a whole. Have we really no more problems to solve that we can afford to engage in such frivolities? With the national debts of the wealthiest and most productive nations on Earth spiralling upwards and more and more people either employed or sustained by the governments responsible (and unwilling to vote them out despite whatever disasters they may be stumbling from and to), I am firmly convinced that the answer to that question is no. If civilisation (which furnishes their social life support system) collapses - and I pray it can hang on at least until my children are adult enough to fend for themselves and make an informed decision whether or not to reproduce - there will be a lot of people who will be getting a short, sharp shock, and then they will almost certainly find themselves either dependent upon or at the mercy of... but that's for another post, another day.